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International Data Manager (Audio Visual), Membership & International

Martin Howse

What do you like most about your job?

The thought that we’re actually helping composers secure that bit of extra cash to enable them to continue to create music. By doing what we do, we’re relieving them from some of the mundane (but essential) stuff; thus freeing them up to concentrate on what they do best. In my team in International, that means foreign income. The Data & Documentation team are here to plug gaps – we’re like detectives, seeking out revenue for our members for performances overseas (on radio, TV, cinema, live, commercials – anywhere, really) that local societies have missed. So we make a tangible difference to the income of our members – we contribute to the around £200m of income that PRS collects from foreign societies per year. And it’s great to work with colleagues whom I genuinely like and who have similar values and interests.

How did you come to join PRS for Music?

This is quite a story! I applied for a job back in 1981 via a recruitment agency. I had an interview, and the agency came back and told me I’d got the job and told me the start date. I would be getting a letter in the post to confirm. Weeks later, and no letter had arrived, so I rang up the agency. They said that there’d been a postal strike in the West End, but confirmed my start date. So, on that day I came up to the office and sat in Reception with a bunch of other newbies. A manager in the (then) Personnel Department, came out and looked at us all, and counted. “Ah, there are seven of you – I only have six names here. Is one of you a temp?” We all shook our heads. “Okay,” she continued, “let’s see who we’ve got…” she read out the names, crossing them off on her list. My name wasn’t on the list! I was 18 – my first job. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. She asked me to wait whilst she went off to check with the agency. Turns out, the agency had got it wrong – I hadn’t been successful in my job interview – there was no job for me. But those were simpler times – the manager just said, “don’t worry, dear – we’ll find you something you can do…”. That was 34 years ago!

What advice would you give someone starting out in the music industry?

These are challenging times. You can’t halt technological progress, and no-one can deny the convenience of streaming and downloading as a method of obtaining music. Music is cheaper than it has ever been – but then again it’s never been more affordable to make professional standard recordings either. Sadly, it’s more disposable than ever, too. I’m a child of the 70s, so I still love the tangibility of vinyl. I feel sorry for kids today (no apologies for sounding like a relic) who don’t get to experience the joy of going to a record shop, buying an album, taking it home and absorbing the artwork and reading the lyrics. That expectation of sliding out the vinyl from the sleeve and placing it carefully on the turntable – it’s priceless. But our industry has changed beyond recognition from the days when that vinyl experience was the only way to buy music. If you’re joining the industry now, you have to be flexible and don’t pigeon-hole yourself in one particular area. As a rights collection organisation, we need to continue to form partnerships and seek alliances with like-minded organisations and agencies, in order to make sure creativity continues to be rewarded. And as an individual joining the industry, you have to embrace a similarly supportive approach.

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